A database of information on Church of England clergy from 1540 to 1835 has been made available for study by historians, genealogists and trivia seekers.
The Clergy of the Church of England Database 1540-1835 (CCEd), launched in 1999 and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, makes available and searchable the principal records of clerical careers from over 50 archives in England and Wales with the aim of providing coverage of as many clerical lives as possible from the Reformation to the mid-nineteenth century.
Explore the datebase here.
The Guardian, UK notes:
The database, so far featuring over 105,000 “clerical CVs” and counting, is intended to establish the ?rst clear picture of one of the most important professions, ?lling gaps in church history and providing a resource for academics, amateur historians and genealogists. Along the way, it is shining a light on a host of extraordinary individuals: characters to emerge include James Mayne, campaigning 19th-century curate of Bethnal Green and unlikely ancestor of the actor Patsy Kensit, and the less dutiful Richard Thurs?eld, vicar of Pattingham, who was reportedly “frequently seen lying in the roads in a state of intoxication”.
The project, conceived 12 years ago, might seem an unlikely marriage of the latest technology and a somewhat stu?y subject, acknowledges Arthur Burns, history professor at King’s College London and one of three historians collaborating on the scheme. “We have always been seen as the most traditional types of scholars, very archive-heavy historians,” Burns admits cheerfully. “Ecclesiastical history is often seen as a musty, old-fashioned discipline. But this has helped bring out our non-tweediness.”
The CCEd is, indeed, at the cutting edge of “digital humanities” – the bit of the academic Venn diagram where computing and history (and its fellow humanities disciplines) meet. Information gleaned from ledgers piled in county record o?ces has been repackaged in a slick, searchable online database, capable of constant revision and featuring sophisticated software that can highlight the source and reliability of each bit of data.
Users can search by name, parish or other elements, digging down into the history of a particular parish, seeking out a clergyman ancestor, exploring an issue such as the unexpectedly high number of female patrons, or studying trends such as clerical migration around the country. The sheer accessibility of the web-based data is, for Burns, one of the great attractions, though not all academics share his enthusiasm: “Some people discouraged us – they felt this was not proper scholarship. They thought it made research too easy.” Such criticisms were less about the need for academic toil, he adds, than a fear that conclusions could be drawn too lightly from the web without a full understanding of context.
h/t to Three Rivers Episcopal